Royal Highland Show cancelled due to coronavirus outbreak

The show is Scotland’s largest outdoor agricultural event, attracting up to 200,000 people each year.

Royal Highland Show: The event has been cancelled. Royal Highland Show
Royal Highland Show: The event has been cancelled.

The Royal Highland Show has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) announced the move on Tuesday following the Scottish and UK governments’ guidance on gatherings and social distancing. 

The show is Scotland’s largest outdoor agricultural event, attracting up to 200,000 people each year and is the premier showcase for the food, farming and rural industry.

Cancelled: The event was due to be held at the Royal Highland Centre.

Commenting on the decision, RHASS chairman Bill Gray said: “It is with deep regret and huge personal disappointment that I confirm the cancellation of the 2020 Royal Highland Show. 

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“Plans for the 180th Show are at an advanced stage but given recent and ongoing developments, the directors and I have taken the only course of action open to us. 

“Thankfully, the sector is nothing but resilient and while this will no doubt test us, I am confident that some good will come from what is a bleak and worrying time for us all. 

“To that end, we are calling on the industry and wider partners to work with us to support each other to ensure we weather the storm.”

Family fun: The show is Scotland’s largest outdoor agricultural event.

RHASS said exhibitors and sponsors will be communicated with over the coming weeks “as resources allow” and ticketholders are being advised to contact Ticketmaster for a full refund.

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Alan Laidlaw, RHASS chief executive, added: “It would be naïve to underestimate the massive impact the cancellation will have on the charity, but with the industry’s support, I have little doubt that we can, and we will, get through this.

“Personally, I am saddened that despite our best intentions, we are not able to stage this year’s event as we had some exciting developments planned; but in these unprecedented times we must focus on the wider issue, support the vulnerable in our communities and ensure that Scottish agriculture plays its essential part in achieving this.”

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Weekly deaths involving Covid-19 in Scotland fall to 230

It marks the fourth consecutive weekly drop in coronavirus-related deaths in the country.

The number of deaths involving coronavirus last week was 230, a fall of more than 100 on the week before.

It marks the fourth consecutive week where deaths relating to Covid-19 have declined, while the proportion of deaths in care homes has also fallen back.

A total of 3779 Scots have now died with confirmed or suspected cases of the virus since the pandemic began, the National Records of Scotland (NRS) figures show.

And speaking on Wednesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed 13 more people who tested positive for the virus have died.

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The NRS’ weekly statistics, which count confirmed and suspected Covid-19 cases, reveal 230 deaths where coronavirus was cited on the death certificate registered in the week ending May 24.

That’s a fall of 105 from the 335 deaths reported the week before, and down from a peak of 659 in mid-April.

Weekly deaths at lowest level since March. (Chart: STV News – Source: National Records of Scotland)

But including 34 confirmed Covid-19 deaths published by Health Protection Scotland and the Scottish Government so far this week, the total death toll in Scotland is 3813.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Sturgeon also said confirmed cases of the virus had risen by 55 overnight, to 15,240 since the pandemic began.

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There are 1247 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 overall, a rise of 47.

Of these patients, 38 were in intensive care, a rise of three.

Deaths involving Covid-19 as a proportion of all deaths last week dropped to 19% from a high in that same week in April of 36%, the NRS figures show.

The percentage of coronavirus deaths in care homes has risen over the course of the pandemic to more than half but has dropped back in recent weeks.

Last week, care home deaths were 54% of all Covid-19 deaths, a decrease from 56% the week before and down from the peak of 60% two weeks prior.

The number of actual deaths in care homes fell for a fourth straight week, this week by around a third, with 124 deaths – a drop of 62.

Since the pandemic began, 46% of deaths have occurred in care homes, 47% in hospitals and 7% in home or other settings.

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Three quarters (76%) of all deaths involving coronavirus to date were of people aged 75 or over.

The total number of deaths registered in Scotland from May 18 to May 24 was 1223 – 17% higher than the average number of deaths registered in the same week over the last five year.

Since the peak of 878 excess deaths reported in the second week of April, the number of excess deaths has decreased on a weekly basis, to 178 in the week ending May 24.

There were fewer deaths last week from respiratory diseases, circulatory conditions, dementia and Alzheimer’s compared to the average for this time of year. 

That means, for the first time since the pandemic took hold, the number of deaths where Covid-19 was the underlying cause (212 in total) was greater than the total number of excess deaths for this time of year.

Pete Whitehouse, NRS director of statistical services, said: “Every death from this virus is a tragedy.

“These statistics, alongside the other important evidence being made available by the Scottish Government and Health Protection Scotland (HPS), are valuable to the understanding of the progress and impact of the Covid-19 virus across Scotland.”

Scots set for warmest day of year as temperatures hit 27C

The central belt, Moray coast and the north Highlands will be hit with 25 -27C weather on Friday and Saturday.

Scotland is set to have its hottest day of the year so far with temperatures soaring to 27C.

The central belt, Moray coast and the north Highlands will be hit with 25 -27C weather on Friday and Saturday.

While very warm conditions can be expected in most areas, the east coast, in particular around Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Angus the temperatures here will be pegged back slightly by sea breezes.

Top temperatures in the Northern Isles are likely to only reach about 15C at best too.

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STV News’ meteorologist Sean Batty said: “Scotland had its warmest day of the year last week with a high of 24.2C recorded in Aviemore.

“The weather took a turn for the worse at the end of the week with some areas having their wettest and windiest days for months.

“Achnagart in the north Highlands actually had its wettest May day on record with 97mm of rain falling on Friday, which topped 57 years of records.

“After a brief blip in the otherwise fine weather, things are looking up once again this week with high pressure and warm and sunny weather returning.

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“It looks as if the temperatures will go higher than last week, so it’s likely that we’ll experience our warmest conditions of the year so far on Friday and Saturday.”

‘Most of the country will see plenty of sunshine, especially towards the weekend, and with just four weeks to go until the summer solstice, the sun doesn’t get much stronger.’

STV Meteorologist Sean Batty

Sean added: “Most of the country will see plenty of sunshine, especially towards the weekend, and with just four weeks to go until the summer solstice, the sun doesn’t get much stronger.

“This combined with a slight easing of lockdown and people now being able to sit in parks and take part in more outdoor activities, it’s extremely important that everyone remembers their sun tan lotion and to stay hydrated.

“This warm spell will also come as very welcome news for garden centres on their first weekend of opening after lockdown.”

However, the warm conditions could bring a risk of a few isolated thunderstorms developing, with the main risk in the north Highlands at the weekend.

Sean said: “The chances of getting one of these will be very small, and is more likely to develop in the mountains, but of course this could roll down towards any surrounding villages. Small risk, but worth noting.

“Some forecast computer models indicate a change to more unsettled and cooler conditions returning later next week, although this is just a few models, with some extending the fine weather way beyond so stay tuned for any changes, but for now, enjoy.”

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Hospital staff ready to fight second wave of Covid-19

The team at University Hospital Monklands in Airdrie said lessons have been learned about the virus.

Staff at a hospital have said they have never faced anything like coronavirus before, but are now better prepared to fight a second wave of potential infections.

The team at University Hospital Monklands in Airdrie said lessons have been learned about the virus and they now know how to treat it.

The NHS Lanarkshire staff have adapted the way they work – from implementing one-way systems to how they put on and take off personal protective equipment (PPE).

Speaking to ITV News, Margaret Harkins, intensive care ward manager, said: “I’ve been an ICU nurse for about 19 years now and this is so different to anything we’ve seen before.”

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Charlene Fairlie, intensive care staff nurse, added: “I think we’re progressing every day. 

“We’re getting better, we’re knowing more, we know how to react to these patients, and we’re better prepared now if we did have a second wave or a third wave.”

The hospital took its first coronavirus patient in early March.

Ami Ewart, an intensive care staff nurse, said fighting on the frontline had been “physically and emotionally” draining.

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Dr Rachel Fraser, senior anaesthetic registrar, added: “NHS as a whole is understaffed, underfunded. And I think this pandemic has brought that again to light. 

“And it’s brought that to everyone’s front of their minds, so I hope that will continue to improve as the pandemic evolves.”

NHS Lanarkshire stopped hospitals from becoming overwhelmed by repurposing community health centres for Covid-19 triage.

Around 60% who go in are deemed fit enough to recover at home.

Covid-19: Sean Campbell has spent almost four weeks in hospital.

Patient Sean Campbell, 28, has spent almost four weeks in hospital after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

After almost two weeks on a ventilator, he is now on dialysis and relearning to walk.

He told ITV News: “Coronavirus is kind of affecting a lot of people’s kidneys at the moment, and I’m still not sure what’s wrong with mine as well.

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“It’s not been an easy ride.”

Mr Campbell said he is in the “best place for recovering”, but has found being away from his family the “hardest part”.

Once out, he said he is most looking forward to tucking into a KFC.

SpaceX and Nasa rocket should be visible in Scotland’s sky

Preparations are under way for Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to travel to the International Space Station.

Spacemen: Astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken.

Two Nasa astronauts are on course to make history as they launch into space from US soil for the first time in nine years.

Preparations are under way for Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) on a rocket and capsule system built by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s firm.

It should be possible to see the spacecraft from the UK shortly after lift-off, according to British astronaut Tim Peake.

Major Peake said the SpaceX capsule should be visible towards the west, to the right of the moon at around 9.50pm UK time.

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Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted to say launch activities will proceed for the time being, as Nasa and SpaceX continue to monitor the weather conditions.

“We are proceeding toward a 4:33 (21:33 BST) launch,” he said.

At present there is a 50% chance the weather will be good enough for the launch, according to the US Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, which monitors the weather for air and space operations.

If all goes as planned, the mission, named Demo-2, will see SpaceX become the first private company to send astronauts into space.

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Since ending its Space Shuttle programme in 2011, Nasa has depended on Russia’s space agency Roscosmos to transport its astronauts to the space station.

In 2014, Nasa awarded SpaceX and Boeing contracts to provide crewed launch services to the space station as part of its Commercial Crew Program.

According to Nasa, the aim of the Demo-2 mission is to show SpaceX’s ability to ferry astronauts to the space station and back safely.

It is the final major step required by SpaceX’s astronaut carrier, the Crew Dragon, to get certified by Nasa’s Commercial Crew Program for more long-term manned missions to space.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will take off from the launchpad 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft where Mr Behnken, 49, and Mr Hurley, 53, will be strapped in.

Mr Behnken will serve as the mission’s joint operations commander and take responsibility for the rendezvous, docking and undocking of the Dragon capsule, while Mr Hurley will be in charge of the launch, landing and recovery of the vehicle in his role as the Crew Dragon spacecraft commander.

Around ten minutes after lift-off, the rocket will separate into what is called a first stage and a second stage.

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The first stage will return to a SpaceX landing ship which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida, while the second part of the rocket continue the journey with the Crew Dragon.

Once in orbit, the Crew Dragon will separate from the second stage and travel at around 17,000mph.

It is expected to rendezvous, and dock, with the space station on Thursday at 4.30pm UK time.

Mr Behnken and Mr Hurley will join the three other space station residents – Nasa’s Chris Cassidy and Russia’s Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner – to become members of the Expedition 63 crew.

The mission is expected to last anything between one and four months where they will perform further tests on the Crew Dragon.

Woman rescued by ferry skipper after driving car into river

Renfrew Ferry crossing suspended after 52-year-old pulled from the River Clyde.

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Rescued: Woman drove 'at speed' into River Clyde.

A woman has been rescued from her car after driving it “at speed” into a river.

The incident happened on Wednesday afternoon on the River Clyde at the crossing for the Renfrew Ferry, which links the town with Yoker in Glasgow.

Her car entered the water just before 1pm and the 52-year-old was rescued.

A social media account for the Renfrew Ferry posted to say the vessel’s skipper “dragged her out” from the river and nobody was hurt.

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The post on Twitter said: “Hi folks our apologies the ferry is off for a while we have had a major incident.

“A lady drove her car at speed into the river. Fortunately our skipper went in and dragged her out so no one was hurt.

“We need to get the car removed and will update asap”.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman confirmed the woman was checked by paramedics at the scene.

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She said: “Shortly before 1pm, police received a report of a car in the River Clyde, close to the Renfrew ferry crossing.

“A 52-year-old woman was rescued from the vehicle by members of the public and is being checked over by paramedics at the scene.

“Inquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances.

“Support units including the marine unit are in attendance whilst the car is recovered. The ferry terminal is likely to be closed as a result.”

SNP MP asks Johnson: Have you had a look at your inbox?

Pete Wishart urged Boris Johnson to apologise over the Dominic Cummings scandal.

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Boris Johnson: Let's move on from Cummings row.

An SNP MP has asked the Prime Minister if he has looked in his inbox amid public anger over the Dominic Cummings row.

Pete Wishart urged Boris Johnson to apologise over the scandal and said the actions of his top adviser would weaken any future Covid-19 lockdown.

Appearing before the House of Commons’ liaison committee on Wednesday, the PM said he was “sorry” for the pain families around the country have been going through due to coronavirus.

But he said the best way to preserve public health messaging amid the pandemic is to “move on” from the controversy and refocus on tackling the virus.

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Johnson suggested the SNP MP was making “party-political points” and claimed “a lot of the allegations” against Mr Cummings “turned out to be completely false”.

Johnson’s chief No 10 adviser held an extraordinary Downing Street press conference on Monday where he confirmed reports he had taken his wife and child on a 260-trip from London to Durham.

He said he had done this over fears he and his wife would become incapacitated from Covid-19 after she developed symptoms, with family in Durham who had offered to provide childcare to his young child.

And he further admitted to travelling on a 60-mile round trip on April 12 to beauty spot Barnard Castle with his family, on his wife’s birthday, claiming he had done so to test his eyesight for driving.

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The special adviser maintained he had no regrets and had acted within the rules.

However, in the wake of his admissions, Scotland Office minister Douglas Ross resigned from his post, while Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw joined a raft of senior Tories in calling for Mr Cummings’ job.

Speaking on Wednesday, Wishart joked to the Prime Minister he was “brave” to continue to “stand by your man” and “sacrifice the credibility and popularity of your own government”.

The Perth and North Perthshire MP told Johnson: “You’ve done something I’ve never seen done in the 20 years I’ve been in the House.

“You’ve somehow managed to unite a nation in condemnation and indignation of your handling of Mr Cummings.”

Wishart highlighted polling suggesting 80% think the PM’s adviser broke lockdown rules, that 62% think he should be sacked, and 65% think his conduct will make people less likely to obey lockdown restrictions.

“Surely no man is more important than keeping this nation safe?” he asked.

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The Prime Minister answered: “A lot of what was written and said over Saturday and Sunday was false in respect to my adviser.

“It wasn’t correct and I think he’s had the opportunity to clear the matter up, notwithstanding the various party-political points you may seek to make.

“And your point about the message – I respectfully disagree.

“I think, actually, the best way to clarify the message, the best way for people to understand what we need to do next, is for us all to move on and focus on what we’re doing.”

Wishart hit back: “Have you had a look at your inbox? My inbox like MPs across the UK is filled with people listing their sacrifices to follow the instructions you set.

“I have constituents who haven’t been able to see their grandchildren and families for months, people not being able to visit dying relatives or attend funerals.

“Do you know what this looks like for them? One rule for those at the heart of government and another rule for everyone else.

“He won’t say sorry, will you say sorry on his behalf?”

Johnson said: “Of course, I am sorry for the pain, as I’ve said, and the anguish and the heartbreak of so many people in this country.

“And by the way, there are people across government at every level who have been through exactly the same privations and difficulties.”

He called again for politicians to “set aside this row”, repeating that “a lot of allegations turned out to be totally false”.

One report Mr Cummings denied was that he had gone back to Durham again later in April following his return to work at Downing Street.

He claimed metadata on his phone would prove that he had been in London on the day he was claimed to have been elsewhere.

The Prime Minister was repeatedly pressed by Labour MP Meg Hillier on if he had seen this evidence, eventually saying that he had.

But he declined to commit to making it public, or to allow civil service chief, cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill, to investigate it.

On April 12, Mr Cummings stated he had not gone into the town of Barnard Castle as reported by an eyewitness to two newspapers.

He said he and his family had merely walked briefly around the woods on the outskirts of the town before driving back to his family’s Durham cottage.

The eyewitness, retired teacher Robin Lees, has been interviewed by police over his claim he saw Mr Cummings and his family walking in the town by the River Tees on the day in question.

Johnson also rejected calls for Mr Cummings to face an inquiry over his actions.

The Prime Minister told the committee: “Quite frankly I’m not certain – right now – that an inquiry into that matter is a very good use of official time.

“We are working flat out on coronavirus.”

EU ‘open’ to two-year extension of Brexit transition

Brussels' chief negotiator Michel Barnier said an extension is available if the UK wants it.

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Michel Barnier: Any extension must be agreed before July 1.

The European Union is “open” to extending the Brexit transition period to the end of 2022, chief negotiator Michel Barnier has confirmed.

In a letter to the Westminster leaders of the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Green Party and Alliance Party, Mr Barnier said the option of a one or two-year extension is available if the UK wants it.

But the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost told MPs the “firm policy” of the UK Government remains not to extend beyond the end of the year.

The leaders of these parties had written to Brussels’ chief negotiator on May 15 calling for a two-year extension to be agreed between the UK and the EU amid deadlock between the two sides.

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The last round of talks between Mr Frost and Mr Barnier ended earlier this month in stalemate, with “very little progress” made on key issues like fishing rights, the UK side said.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford welcomed the response from Mr Barnier and called on Boris Johnson to accept the offer to help protect the economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Brexit transition began when the UK legally left the EU on January 31 and is due to conclude at the end of the year.

Mr Frost told the Commons committee on the future relationship with the European Union on Wednesday: “That is the firm policy of the government, that we will not extend the transition period and if asked we would not agree to it.”

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In his letter, Mr Barnier said: “Such an extension of up to one or two years can be agreed jointly by the two parties.

“The European Union has always said that we remain open on this matter.

“Any extension decision has to be taken by the joint committee before July 1, and must be accompanied by an agreement on a financial contribution by the United Kingdom.”

Responding to the letter, Blackford said: “Boris Johnson must finally put his responsibilities to jobs, living standards and the economy first, and urgently agree the two-year extension on offer to the transition period.

“It would be madness to pile a Brexit crisis on top of the coronavirus crisis we already face – with unemployment soaring, businesses shedding jobs, and many struggling to survive.

“Time is running out. There is just a month left to agree an extension to prevent the UK crashing out with a devastating bad deal or a catastrophic no-deal.

“If the Prime Minister fails to agree an extension he will be responsible for every job lost, every income slashed, and every business that goes under as a result of his bad Brexit deal.

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“The SNP will continue to press for a long extension to protect Scotland’s economy – but the only way to guarantee Scotland’s interests and protect our place at the heart of Europe is to become an independent country.”

Lib Dem leadership candidate Layla Moran urged Mr Johnson to “put his pride aside” and agree to an extension.

She said: “The transition period was designed to give us time to secure a trade deal and make preparations for it to come into effect.

“That time has already, and understandably, been decimated by the coronavirus response.

“This makes a dangerous no-deal Brexit more likely at the end of the year, unless we extend the transition period.

“I am urging the Prime Minister to put his pride aside, tackle the crisis in front of him and take the extension he’s being offered.”

McDonald’s drive-throughs in Scotland to reopen next week

Fast-food chain will open all of its Scottish outlets for drive-through and delivery by June 4.

McDonald
McDonald's drive-throughs set to reoopen.

Every McDonald’s drive-through restaurant in in Scotland will re-open next week, the fast food company said today.

McDonald’s said in a statement it will release the locations of the reopening restaurants on the morning of each day in a bid to manage the anticipated demand.

All of its restaurants in the UK will have reopened by June 4 – next Thursday – either for drive through or delivery.

McDonald’s announced in March it was closing all of its restaurants in the UK and Ireland as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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It started the process of reopening restaurants for delivery earlier this month.

“This is only possible following the hard work of the teams in our 44 pilot restaurants,” McDonald’s said in a statement.

“With fewer employees working in our kitchens and service areas, our teams will still need your patience and support as they continue to adjust to the new ways of working.

“Face coverings, gloves, perspex screens and new safety and hygiene processes mean it will look different, it will take a little longer and as we have seen in the pilot restaurants, we expect demand will be high.

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“Please bear with us, we will continue to put our people first – their safety is our priority,” the statement added.

McDonald’s say the following measures will be in place at all drive-through restaurants across the UK:

  • Spending will be capped at drive-through restaurants to £25 per car and customers are encouraged to pay by contactless payment methods.
  • Perspex screens at drive-through windows and employees wearing protective equipment, as well as perspex screens and floor markings in specific areas in the restaurant and kitchen.
  • All McDonald’s employees will be asked to confirm they are fit and able to work, and the company will use contactless thermometers with temperatures taken on arrival at work for every shift.
  • Social distancing has been introduced in the kitchens and service areas to help create a safe working environment for restaurant teams.
  • Restaurants will return with smaller teams, offering a limited menu.

University creates detailed 3D model of coronavirus

The University of Glasgow worked in collaboration with a freelance scientific Illustrator on the project.

University of Glasgow
Scientific: A detailed 3D model of coronavirus has been created.

Scientists at the University of Glasgow have teamed up with an illustrator to create a detailed 3D model of coronavirus.

The university said the new images of SARS-CoV-2 are “one of the first and most detailed 3D representations of the virus particles” behind the Covid-19 pandemic.

Annabel Slater, a freelance scientific illustrator, created the images in collaboration with the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Virus Research (CVR) and the School of Simulation and Visualisation at the Glasgow School of Art.

Ms Slater said: “I think making scientific images into something 3D opens up a whole new world of interaction, exploration and understanding.

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“The science of a virus can be better understood by making the virus particle into something tangible and interactable.

“I hope these models of the SARS-CoV-2 virus particle will help people by making the invisible visible.”

Covid-19: Annabel Slater created the images in collaboration with the University of Glasgow.

Dr Ed Hutchinson, research fellow at the CVR, who led the virology work in the project, said: “No single experiment can directly produce a detailed image of a SARS-CoV-2 virus particle.

“Not only are they incredibly small, like all viruses, but they are also irregular – every virus particle is slightly different from the next – and getting detailed information requires each component of the virus to be studied in isolation.”

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He said several years of work with Master of Science students put the university in the right place to create the images.

Dr Hutchinson added: “When the current pandemic began, Annabel got in touch and asked if we could collaborate on a model of the SARS-CoV-2 virus particle.

“As a graduate of the MSc programme herself, she was able to quickly pick up the methods needed to build a model of the virus, working with us to interpret a set of data that combined the most up-to-date studies of SARS-CoV-2 with ‘missing information’ from studies of related viruses.”

To view the 3D images, click here.

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